Normally, I dislike "To be continued" columns, but some of the responses to last week's Ask Massively got me thinking. One, in particular, stood out.
I think you need to find out more to correctly answer the question. Is it the setting of the game (fantasy/Space) that is getting old or the MMO genre itself?
Now that I've had a week to think about it, it seems kind of silly to blame ennui on the entire genre, doesn't it? Are people tired of side-scrollers? First person shooters? Real time strategy? Sports games? This is an issue that needs a little more examination, and that's why I'm here.
Grab your shovels, kids. It's time to dig a little deeper.
Let's start with a look at the qualities that successful MMOs have in common.
First and foremost is the game play itself. Is it fun to play? Do the mechanics of the game reward the player sufficiently for the time and risk involved? Do you like your games in easy mode? Do you like them "damned near impossible"? There is something for everyone in this respect, so if you are becoming bored with your MMO of choice, one option might be to look for something a little more challenging. Maybe create a character on a PVP server if you don't feel like buying and learning a whole new game.
Next is story or setting. After a while, the "oooh and ahh" factor of seeing "Elven_Tree_Village_9147" might wear a little thin. Jumping from a game like World of Warcraft to a game like Warhammer Online isn't exactly going to scratch this particular itch. Of course, changing from a Fantasy based game to a sci-fi game (if any of them will stay online for more than a year...) like EVE Online might help, but if you are becoming that bored with the story that an MMO presents, you may be faced with the same situation in another year or so. You just might be the type of gamer that doesn't stay in any one place for very long. After a while, you will notice that whether it is 10 orcs, or 10 frigates, or 10 "whatever it is they kill in Hello Kitty Island Adventure", the mechanics of an MMO are the same, and you may be very tired of repeating the same "character development curve" over and over again.
Finally, there is the player community. How many friends have you made in your game of choice? Speaking from personal experience, it is much more difficult to leave a game where you have a guild full of friends in order to go someplace new. Leaving such a game and going to a new game can be very uncomfortable. You miss the personal interactions and conversations a great deal once you get past the "Oooh, Shiny!" point in the new game and start grinding your way up the character development ladder.
What can we learn from this? The most successful MMOs in the long run are those who can build and nurture a sense of community among the players. Your fellow players will do more to keep you interested in an MMO than story, content, or game play ever will. My advice for those of your out there who are starting to feel a little bored would be to find something that you can do as part of a larger group. Whether is is rolling a bunch of alts, moving to a PVP server, or even moving en-masse to another game entirely, find something outside of the scope of the game itself to stay entertained. Ultimately, the person most responsible for your boredom, or lack thereof, is yourself.
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